Relentless Unfolding: Emerson's Individual

John T. Lysaker
2003 Journal of Speculative Philosophy  
Amid its romantic excesses such as " [t]o believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men,-that is genius" (Porte 2001, 121), Emersonian individualism remains a living project, one we would do well to understand more thoroughly and pursue more rigorously. To aid in this recovery, I will, in a translating repetition of Emerson's thought that engages a range of texts, offer eight theses that any successful reconstruction of individualism
more » ... of individualism must embrace. 1 I am not claiming that these theses are unique to Emerson; others hold similar views. I have elected to work with Emerson, however, because his work eludes the exhausted opposition between atomistic and collectivist accounts of human flourishing. Emerson thinks in severely relational terms. I say "severely relational" because he both denies the possibility of an atomistic self and refuses to dissolve human beings into, or defer our endeavors to, the systemic activities of macrosubjectivities like culture, states, traditional communities, civil-social associations, ecosystems, or even a divinity. Because he broaches the issue of how individuals are private and public, solitary and engaged, Emerson strikes me as a salutary interlocutor for those who would rethink individualism.
doi:10.1353/jsp.2003.0041 fatcat:dzjnbj3cafauxpw4jn67cxcqh4